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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                     Oct. 20, 1995, V3, #190
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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The Truth About Albert Speer

By Paul Francuch (VOA-Chicago)

Albert Speer -- Hitler's "architect" and a powerful leader of the Third Reich -- escaped the gallows following the Nuremberg Trials but spent 20 years in Spandau prison after accepting guilt for his enormous crimes.

But Speer's stated knowledge of what murderous events happened when under the hand of Adolph Hitler remained vague -- purposefully vague, argues British journalist Gitta Sereny in her new book "Albert Speer--His Battle with Truth," published in the U.S. by Alfred A. Knopf. Sereny recently talked about her psychological probing of Speer during an interview in Chicago.

Sereny spent 12 years after Speer died in 1981 talking with those who knew him personally -- this after a series of probing interviews, telephone conversations and letters with Speer himself during the final few years of his life. It was a project, says Sereny, which Speer initiated after reading works by the respected journalist.

"And I didn't like him (laughs). I looked at him on TV and I thought, 'No this man is really ... just too smooth for me. And all these mea culpas I didn't believe. (And) there were so many interesting people in the world to see, to talk with. I just didn't want to see him."

After a series of calls and letters, Sereny accepted an invitation to visit Speer at his home in Heidelberg. She told him that she would control the interviews, which went on for three weeks, sometimes 12 hours or more each day. She confronted him with evidence. She became friendly ... But remained critical.

"When I went to see him -- according to my method, in line with my method -- I told him immediately how I felt about him. I always tell people, particularly if they are controversial personalities, what I feel about them. In Speer's case, I told him that I had always found him too 'smooth.' I just found him too sure of himself. And I did not believe him."

In a process which seems somewhat like journalistic psychoanalysis, Sereny gradually dredged from Speer memories which he cleverly tried to hide. Eventually, she says, Speer revealed knowledge of Nazi murders against millions of Russian and Polish civilians. She is also convinced he knew much earlier than he previously admitted of what came to be called the "Final Solution" to exterminate the Jews.

"I tried throughout these conversations with Speer to get him to tell the truth, to admit what he had never admitted, which was that he had always known or had known for many years about Hitler's horrors. I'm not only speaking about the extermination of the Jews, but I'm speaking of other horrors which the Nazis committed -- you know, millions of murders of civilians in the East, which nobody ever speaks of, but they're extremely important in the whole context of the thing."

But while he knew more than he had ever publicly revealed, Sereny believes there were some Nazi crimes against humanity that he probably did not know about, nor certainly was directly involved in.

"Not involved, of course, directly. He was never directly involved

in anything. He gave orders from his desk in Berlin. But still, he travelled to these places. He saw things happening. The murder of the Jews in gas chambers he had absolutely nothing to do with -- literally. And I think that his knowledge there, really, was quite late and partial. I would in fact say ... It is quite possible that he never knew until (the) Nuremberg (trials) about the gas chambers."

Sereny spends considerable time in her lengthy book examining the close and complicated relationship Speer had with Hitler -- one which bordered on platonic love. She says Speer was one of many who succumbed to Hitler's messianic charms -- something even Sereny admits she felt as a young schoolgirl in Vienna, when she attended a Nazi rally where Hitler spoke.

"I found myself screaming 'Sieg Heil', and then looking at myself in horror -- What am I doing? What is it that emanated from him?"

It was charisma that grew into evil seduction. Sereny says an important message she hopes her book will convey is that charisma in a politician should always be viewed as a potential danger.

"Charisma is an incredibly dangerous quality in statesmen, in politicians. And we need to be very, very careful of it."

Before he died, Speer told Sereny her next book should be about charisma. Not about anyone's in particular, he said. Just the power itself. "Learn to understand charisma," he told her. "Learn to understand it."

Syria Admits a Few Palestinian Refugees

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)
The majority of some 650 Palestinians stranded aboard a car ferry off the Cyprus coast has now been allowed to go to Syria. Syria is now sending a ship to bring them home. The group of mostly women and children is among several thousand Palestinians kicked out of Libya in the past month as part of Col. Muammar Gadhafi's opposition to the Palestinian-Israeli peace agreements.

After hours of negotiations, Syria agreed to accept those Palestinians on board the vessel who hold Syrian identity papers. Syrian officials in Cyprus told reporters there that more than 500 of the 650 passengers would be eligible. Many of the other refugees hold Jordanian documents and are waiting to see if or when they would be allowed to get off the boat and travel to Jordan.

The ship has been anchored off the coast of Cyprus since Syria refused it docking rights on Tuesday. Libya expelled the group last Friday as part of two-month-old campaign to kick out 30,000 Palestinians, many of them long-time residents. Several hundred others remain stranded along the Egyptian-Libyan border in a makeshift camp until their fate is decided.

Gadhafi says it proves that the Palestinian-Israeli peace accord is a fraud because it does not provide a homeland for Palestinians.

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